Benefits of Filing Patent Applications by Universities - SSRANA

Benefits of Filing Patent Applications by Universities

June 14, 2019

An educated population is probably the most important asset of any country, especially of a developing country like India. In the present generation, it is one’s knowledge that differentiates and identifies his/her value, and the education of population that drives the economic development of a country. Universities play a major role in providing such knowledge and advanced skills needed to meet the challenges of sustainable development in the community, in raising public awareness and in providing preconditions for informed decision-making, responsible behaviour and consumer choice.[1] Since universities play a major role in providing education, conducting research for developing technology new innovations and inventions should hold the utmost importance. Intellectual Property (IP) plays a very crucial role when it comes to facilitating the process of taking innovative technology to the marketplace.[2] At the same time, IP also plays a major role in enhancing competitiveness between technology-based enterprises, be it enterprises commercializing new or improved products or enterprises providing services on the basis of a new or improved technology.[3]

Since patents are one of the most commercially profitable category in IP, it is very common sensical to understand that universities and patents benefit each other. Patents not only help universities to improve their ranking, but also help in establishing an innovation ecosystem, incubate knowledge-based start-ups, earn additional revenue and measure research activity. In its biggest push to create entrepreneurial universities in India, the University Grants Commission (UGC) required all universities in India to set up an Intellectual Property (IP) Centre.

Having said that, the essential aspects of patent application filings by universities may be the following:

  1. Unlike industrial scientists and engineers who are generally hired to invent and assign rights in the inventions to their employer without any outstanding rights to additional reimbursement, university personnel are in a different position. The prime focus of universities is to educate and to conduct technical research. However, in case of any invention during the conduct of technical research, universities must not lose an opportunity to file a patent application. This results in the universities in investing more on R&D and helping them in their overall development.

 

  1. Universities often collaborate with industries for innovating in a specific domain, which in turn gives a lot of exposure to its faculties and students, helping them gain a position in these industries and leading to acknowledgement of the universities. This encourages the entire academic ecosystem to do more research leading to useful inventions, leading the country in becoming the hub of research and development.

 

  1. University plays a major role in providing resource and guidance to the students for creating the invention. Many technical universities do have in place IP Policies for creations/innovations done by students, as such policies help in encouraging students for creating, developing, investing and commercializing the invention so created. These IP policies by universities are effective and encourage students, as these focuse on:
    1. Ownership of IP created,
    2. Plan of action and tactics to properly commercialize the invention,
    3. Sponsorships from private and other agencies,
    4. Other issues like addressing conflicts, benefit sharing etc.

The Annual Report (2016-17) issued by The Office of the Controller General of Patents, Designs, Trademarks and Geographical Indications shows the list of top 10 universities and institutes with the number of patent filings done by these universities: [4]

As per the report of 2015-16, the list appeared as:[5]

And as per the 2014-15 report, the list appeared as:[6]

It is important to note that the number of patents granted by India shot up by 50 per cent in 2017, keeping up a trend of steep increases, according to the UN’s World Intellectual Property Organisation.[7], and as per the Performance of Intellectual Property Office 2017-18, shows the overall filing of Patent as:

Recently, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, signed an Institutional Agreement with Anna University to establish India’s second Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) at the Centre for Intellectual Property Rights (CIPR), Anna University, Chennai, under the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) TISC program.[8] The objective of the TISC is to stimulate a dynamic, vibrant and balanced Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) system in India to foster creativity and innovation, thereby promoting entrepreneurship and enhancing social, economic and cultural development by establishing a network of TISCs in India.[9] Presently, India has two Technology and Innovation Support Centers, the first was signed with Punjab State Council of Science and Technology[10] and the other with  Anna University, Chennai. The major services offered by such TISCs are:[11]

  • access to online patent and non-patent (scientific and technical) resources and IP-related publications;
  • assistance in searching and retrieving technology information;
  • training in database search;
  • on-demand searches (novelty, state-of-the-art and infringement);
  • monitoring technology and competitors;
  • basic information on industrial property laws, management and strategy, and technology commercialization and marketing

The TISCs initiative by WIPO, is mainly for the developing countries who have access to local high-quality technology information and related services, and assisting them to exploit their create, protect, manage and exploit their Intellectual Property Rights.[12]

But as universities set up IP centres and create IP policies, it is also essential to understand that they have started facing a strange, but real, human resources problem. The bitter truth is that despite the numerous policy push to have more IP in universities, we simply do not have enough IP professionals in the country. Further, the ambitious goal set by India’s IPR Policy can only be realised only when the examination for qualifying as a Patent Agent becomes the foundation for making a career in IPR. In a dynamic field such as intellectual property, and especially patents, in order to create a band of qualified patent professionals, there should be a push towards post-qualification continuous education as well. To achieve this, the format, membership, syllabus and the frequency of the patent agent examination will need to be addressed seriously. This would not only see an increase in the number and quality of patent professionals in the country, but would also help in students to take up IP as a new career choice, especially for graduates with a degree in science and technology.

Regardless, with more awareness about IP rights, and continuous efforts of universities in creating inventions, it is high time that universities start expediting the filing of patent applications at the Indian Patent Office. Any which ways, irrespective of the protection, the patent applications will definitely give the university and its students the due recognition of developing said idea, which can be further used to develop or monetise the idea later.

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[1] Radhe Shyam Sharma, “Role of Universities in Development of Civil Society and Social Transformation”, 17th International Academic Conference, Vienna (2015) (ISBN 978-80-87927-10-6, IISES); available at https://ideas.repec.org/p/sek/iacpro/2604181.html

[2] Christopher M. Kalanje, “Role of Intellectual Property in Innovation and New Product Development” (WIPO) available at https://www.wipo.int/sme/en/documents/ip_innovation_development_fulltext.html#role

[3] Id.

[4] ANNUAL REPORT (2016-17), THE OFFICE OF THE CONTROLLER GENERAL OF PATENTS, DESIGNS, TRADE MARKS AND GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS,  page no. 29, available at http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/IPOAnnualReport/1_94_1_1_79_1_Annual_Report-2016-17_English.pdf

[5] ANNUAL REPORT (2016-17), THE OFFICE OF THE CONTROLLER GENERAL OF PATENTS, DESIGNS, TRADE MARKS AND GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS,  page no. 29, available at http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/IPOAnnualReport/1_93_1_Annual_Report_2015-16_English.pdf

[6] ANNUAL REPORT (2016-17), THE OFFICE OF THE CONTROLLER GENERAL OF PATENTS, DESIGNS, TRADE MARKS AND GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATIONS,  Page No. 09, available at http://www.ipindia.nic.in/writereaddata/Portal/IPOAnnualReport/1_92_1_AnnualReport_English_2014_2015.pdf

[7] Economic Times, “Number of patents granted by India shot up by 50% in 2017: UN”, available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/number-of-patents-granted-by-india-shot-up-by-50-in-2017-un/articleshow/66932638.cms

[8] Press Information Bureau, Government of India – Ministry of Commerce & Industry, India’s Second Technology and Innovation Support Center (TISC) Established at Anna University, Chennai, dated November 08, 2017, available at http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=173318

[9] Id.

[10] DIPP to set up India first TISC in Punjab, available at http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=167391

[11] Technology and Innovation Support Centers, WIPO, available at https://www.wipo.int/tisc/en/

[12] Id.

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